Malo (English: “Bad”) was an American Latin-tinged rock and roll group. The San Francisco-based ensemble was led by Arcelio Garcia and Jorge Santana, the brother of Latin-rock guitarist Carlos Santana.
Four of Malo’s original members (Santana, Garcia, Tellez, and Bean) had previously played in the band The Malibus. The other three founding members (Abel Zarate, Roy Murray, and Richard Spremich) had played together in the group Naked Lunch. (Bean and Zarate also played in a band called the Righteous Ones together)
Malo’s 1972 Top 20 hit single, “Suavecito” (meaning “soft” or “smooth” in Spanish), has been called “The Chicano National Anthem”, The band featured full horn and percussion sections in the style of contemporary bands Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Some of the best musicians in the Bay Area were featured in Malo, including Forrest Buchtel, Jr., Ron Smith, Luis Gasca, and Tom Poole in the trumpet section. Malo’s music was popular in Central and South America, especially the songs “Chevere”, “Nena”, “Pana”, “Cafe”, and “Oye Mama”.
After the release of their first album, many of Malo’s original band members left the group in a rift widely popularized in the media. Buchtel went on to play with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Jaco Pastorius and Woody Herman; Harrell became one of the most lyrical trumpet soloists of all-time, working often with saxophonist Phil Woods; Abel Zarate went on to play with Latin-jazz legend Willie Bobo and continues to play Latin/Brazilian Global jazz in San Francisco with his group Zarate Pollace Project. Richard Bean formed the group “Sapo” with his brother Joe and still tours throughout Northern California; Jorge Santana embarked on a solo career and still plays frequently. Currently Malo has only one of its original members, Arcelio Garcia Jr., who took over the band in the late 1970s. Since that time the band has disbanded on a few occasions changing out band members throughout the years.
The 1972 “Suavecito” release was written and sung by Richard Bean with Abel Zarate and Arcelio Garcia on background vocals and Zarate playing the signature guitar riffs. Richard Bean continues to perform the single with Sapo and recently shared his story of writing “Suavecito” on CalMagazine.com Channel 9.
In 1995, Malo released a new CD entitled Senorita on the GNP Crescendo records label. The title track of the CD was written by new lead singer Martin Cantu who like previous band members also grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District. Martin also went on to co-write “Take My Breath Away” with long-time friend Damon Bartlett and two other songs, “More Than Friends” and “Malo Ya llego,” co-written with Arcelio Garcia. Since leaving Malo in 1998, Cantu has played with his new Gospel/Christian band, L-Rey pronounced (El Rey). In 2010 Martin Cantu & L-Rey released the song “Jesus Cristo,” a gospel rendition of Malo’s hit song Suavecito.
A vocal section of “Suavecito” was included in the refrain of Sugar Ray’s 1999 hit song, “Every Morning.”
In March of 2017 original Malo founding member, Richard Bean, former Malo member Leo Rosales along with many former long-time MALO members who are recognized as Original Kings of Latin Rock, assembled together former MALO member veterans to create a distinct super group to carry on the Malo music legacy.
The current Malo legacy band which consists of Bean, Rosales, Menjivar and Manzo are some of the original writers, composers, singers and artists who brought forth an ingenious part of the Malo musical journey. The group perform hits from their 1972 debut self-titled wax album project, “MALO” that produced the all-time MALO Classic, “Suavecito” through “MALO Dos” (1972), “Señorita” (1996), “Latin Legends Live, ” (1997) and, “MALO En Vivo” (2005).
The ten-member group features four decades of legacy that were a key part of the core within the Malo music experience. This collaborative of legendary musicians creates the most authentic feel and sound of Malo music today.
Malo legacy members – Richard Bean, Tony Menjivar, Leo Rosales, Gabriel Manzo, Bob Crawford, David Margen, Frank Bailey, Mike Rinta, Bill Ortiz